Bringing Healthy Food and a Community Hub to Roxbury

Originally posted on HealthCity.

Help from Boston Medical Center

Despite the hurdles that come with finding seed money for a start-up fund and the harsh reality that many entrepreneurs of color face barriers when accessing business financing, Samad and Yassin persisted with their vision.

They found Boston Medical Center, whose campus is less than a mile from Nubian Square, was able to provide a $1 million loan to help Nubian Markets get on its feet. The funding is part of BMC’s overall commitment to addressing social determinants of health (SDoH) — non-medical factors in people’s lives that affect health outcomes — including a $6.5 million initiative to support affordable and stable housing initiatives.

BMC had launched a community health initiative in 2017 that included listening to members of the hospital’s local Roxbury community. “People wanted a grocery store. They wanted a place where they would meet their neighbors. And they wanted to have a café and ready-made meals they could take home after work,” says BMC pediatrician Megan Sandel, MD, MPH.

“The perception was that a community in Roxbury couldn’t support a grocery store economically, and therefore, it was too risky and you couldn’t get financing,” Sandel says. “But BMC wanted to invest in Black entrepreneurs — so we leaned in with a $1 million no-interest loan.”

Among the recognized SDoH are stable housing, healthy food access, and financial wellbeing. The Nubian Markets project — adjacent to new affordable housing, offering healthy food options, supporting racially and ethnically diverse food producers, and Black-owned and operated — would cover all those essential components to help the community thrive.